Friday, December 11, 2015

Camille Paglia Riffs on Taylor Swift

Camille Paglia has a way with words. She knows how to use language to draw attention to her thought. It’s a special and admirable skill, not to be derided.

Yesterday Paglia took out after girl squads, whatever that is, and drew national attention by calling Taylor Swift an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie.” She got a lot of attention.

From a strictly rhetorical perspective I would have preferred a different term… because it’s becoming a little tired to call everyone you don’t agree with pr don't like a Nazi. When terms get overused they get worn down and lose their edge.

But, Paglia is presenting an interesting idea.  Whatever women have gained for joining up with the feminist cause, they have also lost something. Becoming feminists has cost them their authority in the home, their ability to make independent decisions about their households. And, they also lost the natural camaraderie they had enjoyed with other housewives and mothers. They lost a type of bond with other women.

By Paglia’s lights, they are trying to find this camaraderie by forming girl squads.

But, having lost their more home-based connections with other women, women also feel lonely and bereft. They do well, Paglia continues, not to blame it all on men.

In her words:

If many women feel lonely or overwhelmed these days, it's not due to male malice. Women have lost the natural solidarity and companionship they enjoyed for thousands of years in the preindustrial agrarian world, where multiple generations chatted through the day as they shared chores, cooking and child care.

One might offer some slight demurrals here. While Paglia is correct to say that the industrial world has helped to undermine this form of female solidarity, it is also true that industrialization does not force any woman to live her life in one way or another.

The Industrial Revolution gave women untold opportunities, but feminism taught women to disparage, demean and stigmatize the roles of homemaker and a stay-at-home mother.

Paglia’s analysis suffers, however, because does not distinguish between married and unmarried women. To the best of my knowledge the women who make up celebrity girl squads are not married and are not mothers. That is why they are called “girl squads,” and not woman squads or even person squads

Also, the girls that surround Taylor Swift are wildly successful, excessively wealthy and most often unattached. They have reached a pinnacle of professional success and do not need a man for very much of anything except love and seminal fluid. Thus, they remain single. They do not like it. They do not know what to do about it. They tend to complain about lost love and denounce the patriarchy.

Feminists were promising that women who became rich and successful, independent and autonomous would have men lining up to love them. It was a lie. True enough, these girls, as Amy Schumer famously said, can easily “catch a dick,” but since when was it a great achievement for an attractive or even not-so-attractive young women to “catch a dick.” The problem these girls face is catching a husband, a more daunting challenge, to say the least.

One accepts that these girls can have all the dick they want—what young woman can’t— but Paglia should have noticed that Taylor Swift has made a career out of bemoaning her failed relationships. If it is bad enough that she is a wealthy celebrity, but she has been known to write about her lost loves. How many men want to risk the humiliation?

Moreover, these girls hang out together because men rarely ask them out on dates. Perhaps it’s because they are rich and famous. Perhaps it’s because they are trainwrecks. For whatever the reason, on Saturday night, they can choose, Jennifer Lawrence once complained, to stay home alone or to go out with the girls.

Unfortunately, these same girls are also competing for men. And they are competing for fewer and fewer men. Very few men have the stature, the fame and the fortune to marry a celebrity woman and not to feel diminished in her presence. There are only so many Tom Bradys and Justin Verlanders to go around.

Note that the women in these girl squads are all celebrities, actresses, models and chanteuses. They are not executive vice presidents and managing directors… positions that create their own relationship difficulties.

Since Paglia ignores this aspect of the problem, her analysis suffers. Yet, one is inclined to agree with her when she says that these girl squads ought to use their clout to advance their careers and to help other women gain access to the marketplace. But, of course, given that these women are celebrities, they do not, any more than male celebrities, have very much power to do so. One would like to believe that their girl power would improve their negotiating position with producers, but isn't that the job of their agents?

Paglia recommends this:

Girl squads ought to be about mentoring, exchanging advice and experience and launching exciting and innovative joint projects. Women need to study the immensely productive dynamic of male bonding in history. With their results-oriented teamwork, men largely have escaped the sexual jealousy, emotionalism and spiteful turf wars that sometimes dog women.

But, we have attractive, wealthy single women who every young man drools over but no young man wants to marry. In that case, they are not likely to overcome the “sexual jealousy, emotionalism and spiteful turf wars” that are part of what happens when women compete for men.

When Paglia suggests that these women cut down on socializing and focus on their own creative gifts, she is, I dare say, being naïve. The imperative to find a husband becomes more pressing as women get older and even more difficult when a woman discovers that she has painted herself in a corner. She has achieved exactly what feminists wanted her to achieve, only to find out that fewer and fewer men want to marry her.

Few members of the girl squads are going to find consolation in their ability to catch some dick.


Sam L. said...

Self-inflicted foot-shots. When will they ever learn that other women have lied to them...and do something about it>?

priss rules said...

Celebs being 'girl squads' is not the problem.

They can afford the indulgence(at least until they end up like lindsay lohan), and celebs are an infinitesimal percentage of the population.

The real danger is that normal females without the money, privilege, and means are likely to emulate this kind of lifestyle as Swift-wanna-be's.

It's like a rich rapper acting indulgently may be stupid, but it's affordable since he's got the cash.

But when every impoverished homey in da hood acts like he's some rich pimp with a cadillac, that is pathetic and ruinous.

Celebs are dangerous as models of imitation than figures of excess.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree entirely. Worse yet is when people live beyond their means by borrowing money. The same can apply to certain countries, too.

Sam L. said...

Blogger Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree entirely. Worse yet is when people live beyond their means by borrowing money. The same can apply to certain countries, too.

Current company (country) included.